The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with mouth or throat cancer in 2012. About 8,000 people will die of the disease.
The oral cavity includes your lips, cheek lining, gums, front part of your tongue, floor of the mouth beneath the tongue and the hard palate that makes up the roof of your mouth. The throat (pharynx) starts at the soft part of the roof of your mouth and continues back into your throat. It includes the back section of your tongue as well as the base where the tongue attaches to the floor of your mouth.
During your dental visit, your dentist can talk to you about your health history and examine these areas for signs of mouth and/or throat cancer. Regular visits to your dentist can improve the chances that any suspicious changes in your oral health will be caught early, at a time when cancer can be treated more easily.
The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer can include:
- sores that bleed easily or do not heal
- a thick or hard spot or lump
- a roughened or crusted area
- numbness, pain or tenderness
- a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
Make sure to tell your dentist about any problems you have when chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw.